By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
The new biopic, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”
from director Michael Showalter
(“The Big Sick”) offers a glimpse into the wacky world of religious shysters, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker who are played by Academy Award nominated actress Jessica Chastain (“The Help” and “Zero Dark Thirty”) and Andrew Garfield (“Hacksaw Ridge” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”).
“The Eyes of Tammy Faye” from screenwriter Abe Sylvia (TV’s “Dead to Me” and “Filthy Rich”) is based on the Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato 2000 documentary of the same name. The movie earnestly chronicles the rise and fall of the televangelists whose secret lust for fame and fortune propelled them to near superstar status within the Christian world. However, the movie--though fascinating at times--never quite reaches the heights worthy of a big screen drama and it could have just as easily worked as a Lifetime TV movie.
Still, it’s hard to take your eyes off Chastain who is unrecognizable with all that makeup. Chastain has said in recent interviews that wearing so much makeup for the role may have damaged her skin.
In “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” Jim and Tammy learned how to play the game and became media darlings. They co-founded and hosted the PTL Club, a Christian television program from 1974-1989. Audiences loved their folksiness and “honesty” and rewarded the couple with major financial donations which enabled Jim and Tammy to also build the Heritage USA, a Christian theme park that enjoyed tremendous success when it opened in 1978.
The money flowed and Jim and Tammy convinced themselves after seeing the empire that fellow Christian televangelist Pat Robertson (Gabriel Olds, TV’s “Amazing Stories” and “Blindspot”) created, that they were more than worthy of the opulent lifestyle they were afforded courtesy of their followers. Jim even tells Tammy that God wants her to be rich.
Their spending spiraled out of control and the more money they made, the more problems they had. Secret sexual affairs became public as well as their money mismanagement issues which forced one of their most trusted sources, Jerry Falwell Sr. (played convincingly by Vincent D’Onofrio, TV’s “Godfather of Harlem”) to turn on them as well.
It seems the only person who was able to see through Jim and Tammy’s ruse was Tammy’s mother Rachel (a terrific Cherry Jones, TV’s “Close Enough” and “Succession”).
Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker certainly won over a ton of people with their bigger than life personalities. It will be interesting to see if this movie can do the same with audiences.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 93.1 FM and 1530 AM.
Watch This Trailer For "THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The American Film Institute (AFI), and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.